There was no handbook on how to deal with a tragedy like this.
But nobody bothered to tell Scott Camporeale, John Worsfold and the players, led brilliantly by Tex Walker, Nathan Van Berlo and Patrick Dangerfield.
The nation, indeed the global sporting world, watched the heartbreak after the West Coast game in July when grown men and young boys walked off in tears. The expectation was that this team would not recover this season, but this club has shown an extraordinary resolve and regardless of the final result against Hawthorn, this must be acknowledged as one of the greatest achievements in the sport this season.
If you go further back you can get a true understanding of why this has been a truly remarkable year.
The death of much loved strategy and innovation coach Dean Bailey in March, 2014 and the freak training accident of Brent Reilly which left him fighting for his life earlier this year, only adds to the pain the players and staff have gone through.
The axing of fan favourite Brenton Sanderson as coach at the end of last season and the Kurt Tippett saga in 2012 which left Adelaide without a CEO in 2013 and harsh draft penalties all set the club back. Steven Trigg then resigned in August last year leaving the Crows with the task of finding a new CEO.
Seeing club champion Nathan Bock leave in 2010 and rising star Phil Davis walk out of the club before the season had even finished in 2011 and into the arms of the expansion teams gave Adelaide a headache in defence. You can’t recruit with the expectation of losing those players. Adelaide were one of the clubs hit hardest by the introduction of Gold Coast and Greater Western Sydney.
Jack Gunston left the club in controversial circumstances in 2011, citing home sickness as the reason and the following year watched Kurt Tippett say the same only to end up at Sydney.
In the space of three years the Crows had lost four key position players.
You can’t replace any of those players overnight. In fact it has taken five years to cover those losses in defence with the drafting of the two Jakes, young guns Lever and Kelly. Another player who looked to have a future as a defender, Sam Siggins, left the club last month and returned home to Tasmania after he could no longer cope with the loss of the coach. It’s believed he has sadly given up football altogether.
At the end of 2013 another club champion, Bernie Vince, was sacrificed and traded to Melbourne in order for the Crows to trade back into the second round of the draft. That left some players and fans angry. He wasn’t regarded as a key position player but nonetheless he was a key play maker. That takes the tally to five
Recruiting Eddie Betts at the same time has offset that loss and most would agree he has exceeded all expectations. Adelaide Brought in Josh Jenkins from Essendon and Tom Lynch from St Kilda at the end of 2011. Both were regarded as good reserve grade players with some potential. It has taken 3-4 years to get those players to a quality AFL standard.
Now the Crows are resigned to perhaps losing another key player. One they can not afford to lose. Patrick Dangerfield.
All year the club has had to deal with rumours and innuendo about his future. The fans have anxiously had to listen as each week the crescendo of expectation of him leaving grew louder.
If indeed, as the experts believe, he walks, then that makes six in six years.
In that time Adelaide have made the finals twice and came to within a kick in 2012 of making the grand final.
Scott Camporeale is still undecided if he wants to be the full time Crows coach, but the job is his for the taking. He needs the dust to settle as do all the players and support staff. They have yet to fully grieve after the events surrounding the death of Phil Walsh.
It’s understood that John Worsfold has the full backing of the board to stay as coaching director, a role he admits he has grown to love, or should he choose to, as head coach. This would give the team the stability it desperately needs heading into next season.
Essendons’ disrespectful attempt to speak to Worsfold, disregarding a hand shake promise and flying officials and players over in a private jet to speak to him was a low act. A hollow Xavier Campbell apology meant nothing. There was flagrant disrespect shown to Adelaide while its season was still alive.
John Worsfold should be awarded an honorary life membership to the Adelaide Football Club should he choose to leave. He put his entire personal life aside to answer a Andrew Fagan SOS when the club knew it was way out of its depth. His role can never be underestimated.
The next month or so will be uncertain for this young team on the rise as it strives to work its way through murky waters. Having to replace a coach, a coaching director and star midfielder could well set the club back. CEO Andrew Fagan and club chairman Rob Chapman will have their work cut out to get the club settled for 2016.
Finally though, the club, the players and the fans can start the grieving process.
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